Losing a job is nearly always a stressful and frightening experience – especially when you have a family to help support. If you’re paying child support, however, you’re also dealing with a court order that requires monthly payments and an ex who may be less than empathetic about your circumstances.
So what should you do if you lose your job and can’t make your usual child support payments for a time? Let’s look briefly at some important things to remember.
Why you need to notify the court
First, if you can’t fulfill your responsibilities under your child support order, even temporarily, you need to seek a modification of that order through the court. If you don’t, you’re violating the order and risk penalties, having to make back payments and even potentially incarceration. If a state agency is collecting the support from your paycheck, notify it as well.
Even if your co-parent agrees to accept less money for a time, you still need to go through the court. Otherwise, your ex can always change their mind and seek payment. A court isn’t going to look favorably on a parent who violated an order.
The judge will likely grant a temporary modification if you have no other source of income. However, they’ll expect to see evidence that you’re looking for a job and not turning down work.
Job loss shouldn’t affect your parenting rights
Many people wrongly believe that child support and parental rights are mutually dependent. Some parents try to withhold parenting time if a co-parent isn’t paying support or refuse to pay support if a parent isn’t letting them see their child.
These are two separate things. Both parenting time and financial support are considered in a child’s best interests, so withholding one or other may seem like it’s punishing a parent, but ultimately, it’s doing more to harm the child.
Further, the fact that you lost your job is likely no reflection on your ability to be a good parent. Good people lose their jobs – even get fired – for all kinds of reasons. Unless you lost your job because you physically harmed someone or perhaps did something else illegal, there shouldn’t be any reason for a reassessment of your parenting rights.
If you need to seek a temporary modification of your child support order and/or your co-parent seems to be taking steps to lessen your parenting rights because of a job loss, it’s wise to have legal guidance. This can help you weather this time without unnecessary legal complications.